How to build a better relationship with alcohol

7 min

Whether it be a hangover-induced vow, advice from your doctor, a New Year’s resolution, a long-held desire to improve your health, or a charity campaign such as Dry July and Feb Fast, you might have at some point reassessed your relationship with alcohol.

There are huge health benefits to cutting back on the grog, and drinking rates are declining in Australia, according to the latest research. You may have noticed more low- and non-alcohol drinks popping up at your local pub and bottle shop in recent years too, which is a sign more people are modifying their relationship with booze.

So, should you consider cutting down your alcohol intake? Or do you want to help a mate or family member who is going over the top with their drinking?

The downsides of drinking alcohol

Drinking is very much part of Australian culture — it is the most widely used drug in the country and is consumed for a vast range of reasons. 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics states people born in Australia are almost twice as likely as those born overseas to exceed drinking guidelines (more on them shortly). Men are more likely to drink at risky levels, with one in four exceeding the recommendations.

While drinking is widespread and (for the most part) accepted, Alcohol and Drug Foundation spokesperson Robert Taylor says alcohol causes significant problems.

“Every year, there are more than 4,100 alcohol-related deaths (in Australia), and more than 86,000 alcohol-related hospitalisations nationally,” he says.

“Sadly, data from 2021 saw the highest rate for alcohol-induced deaths in 10 years, driven primarily by an 8.1% increase in the rate of alcohol-induced deaths for males since 2020.
“Young people continue to be the most likely age group to drink at risky levels on a single occasion, with risky drinking more common among young males.

“People on higher incomes are more likely to drink alcohol compared to those on lower incomes. However, if people on lower incomes do drink heavily, they are more likely to experience serious harms.”

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education CEO Caterina Giorgi says people should be more aware of the damage alcohol can cause.

“It seems as though we accept a higher level of harm when it comes to alcohol (compared to other issues)”

– Caterina Giorgi

Caterina Giorgi said at an Australian Men’s Health Forum webinar on alcohol during Men’s Health Week. 

“These types of harms, if they existed in many other areas, there would be an absolute riot on the streets. In Australia, a person dies about every 90 minutes because of alcohol … a person dying every 90 minutes! If that was happening on our roads, if that was happening from anything else, there’d been an uproar, and we’d be making changes.”

Recommendations for alcohol consumption in Australia

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day, while people under 18 should not drink alcohol. 

But what is a standard drink? It is any drink containing 10 grams of alcohol and can include one 425ml light beer, one 285ml full-strength beer, 100ml of sparkling wine, one 30ml spirit or 60ml of fortified wine. 

While the NHMRC encourages people to drink within its guidelines, it also states: “Not drinking at all is the best way to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol.”

Do you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol?

Australian not-for-profit organisation Hello Sunday Morning, which delivers alcohol behaviour-change programs, states there are several warning signs which indicate you have issues with drinking, adding “if you are worried that you can see a lot of these within yourself, we’d suggest you consider your relationship with alcohol and look at ways you can improve it.”

Benefits of cutting back, or quitting, alcohol

Reducing your alcohol intake can boost your health and wellbeing.

Healthdirect — an Australian Government-funded service providing quality, approved health information and advice — states “cutting alcohol consumption means you are less likely to feel anxious or depressed. You’d also be at less risk of developing long-term health problems such as cancer, heart disease or liver cirrhosis (scarring).

“You might even lose weight, have more energy, and look better.”

– Health Direct

The public health service adds that cutting back on drinking can also help improve your relationships and financial situation.

How can you be more responsible with alcohol?

As with any behavioural change, it can be a difficult process, according to Taylor.

“Social norms and peer pressure can make it difficult for people trying to reduce the amount they drink.”

– Taylor

Taylor says,  “It’s not uncommon for people trying to drink less to face stigma and unsupportive responses from colleagues, friends, or family members. 

“Given the strong and consistent evidence around the harmful impacts of alcohol, it’s important to support people wanting to cut back or stop drinking, rather than making it more challenging.

Tips to reduce your drinking



Alcohol use
Healthy living
Holistic health
Substance use

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